In this latest blog post I decided to look at the various issues facing an emerging VR market and the potential issues facing many indie developers looking to make an impact within the virtual reality space. The infancy of the VR market right now means that many indie developers and publishers will need to look at playing the long game before seeing any major profitability. Being prepared for your market and preparing assets to reach different areas of discoverability and promotion can make all the difference, hopefully this ‘top five’ will help reinforce those aspects.
1. The Experience
Present the experience, tap into the emotions that virtual reality represents. Virtual reality is what it says on the tin, it’s a virtual reality – what reality experience can you create that will be unlike anything else. What emotional responses can you re-create, fear, sadness, happiness, joy, anger. Create something that taps into complex emotional states but not at the expense of cheap scares or short lived thrills. People share the great experiences they’ve had but they just as easily share poor experiences they’ve had too. Crafting an experience in VR means utilizing VR to break through the traditional barriers of how players interact with the virtual world. Think beyond the short sharp jump scares and think about how story and emotion can immerse your audience into an unforgettable yet entirely believable experience. Market the experience you are providing, how people react and feel after playing it are important to your products success.
2. The Key Feature
What is the key feature?, I’ve spoken before about the need to dial in your top most important feature (see my post – ‘How a Shark Attack Defined Product Positioning’). The best feature of your game is the one that will draw your audience in. Go big when you’re talking about your key feature, make it known, share it, emphasize it and support it across all of your internal and external communications at every available opportunity. Your feature set is the core foundation of your game, its principles and its appeal. You should further identify the best 5 features of the game when comparing your product against similar competitor products in the market place. For a selling point, focus on the one core feature of the game as the beacon for it, the one shining light that will make players adopt your game over your competitors. (hint, your core feature is the one that none of your competitors currently have). Create your positioning from that core feature and have everyone on your team remember it and promote it. Make sure any external agencies in PR or marketing are also using it.
3. The Reactions
Don’t be hesitant to promote the experience you are selling through video reactions on channels like YouTube – VR reaction videos are becoming ever more popular to promote virtual reality content. Reactions videos are basically footage of people ‘reacting’ to the VR experience they have just had from wearing a VR headset. What better accolade is there than instant first hand reaction to your product by a member of the games playing public?.
One of the best examples of recent months is Frima Studio’s FATED: The Silent Oath, an emotional story driven game set in Viking times. At PAX East the developer rigged up a cart, installed wind machines and used water spray to further enhance the player experience for the demo of their game, the reaction video they created from this became an excellent promotional tool – check it out here:
4. The Format
Think long and hard about this one, create the product you want to make but one thing to consider is your audience size. You should ideally be looking at the format that will reap the investment you are putting into creating it. Short term profit is not something you’ll find in the current VR market, why? – because with headsets costing $500+ and a small install base, the majority of devs will need to go the distance before you see any major financial return. That’s not to say you can’t recoup investment, Unseen Diplomacy recouped its dev cost in a single day. Traditionally products aim towards the format with the biggest audience, and share of the market. Think long and hard about supply and demand, is the hardware adoption rate strong enough that you can reap the benefits in profitable sales, is the hardware price-point for the consumer in line with your products quality? Don’t assume that the most powerful system is the best one. Technically it may be superior but if development costs are higher you will need to factor that in to your long game strategy. For VR right now it’s about durability while the market grows, how you sustain yourself and the chosen format you are developing for are important factors to consider.
5. Awareness & Longevity
Employ a sharability mentality to your media approach– This is a tricky one, but the road to success is to keep people talking about your product. At the moment we see Virtual Reality tech embraced by a lot of early adopters but it won’t be until PlayStation VR launches later this year when we see a slightly more level playing field as accessibility to hardware increases.
High price point and low availability, particularly in Europe are nothing new for new tech hardware launches. The longevity of your product is not only measured by the quality of your offering, it’s also measured by the length of time people will continue to talk about it because of the experience. I’ve used it as an example many times before but people still talk about the ending of the 1995 film, Seven, the Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman crime thriller (“what’s in the box?”). While the brand importance for people continuing to talk about the film no longer has any impact on the movies financial success, and it’s buzz is long gone, people still talk about that movie 21 years later. The emotional scene was the final end-game for Detective Mills, entirely un-expected and wholly unique. Discussion and sharability are created for brands and IP when something emotional, positive, unexpected or truly innovative is introduced to the user. ‘Unique’ is something that your competitor doesn’t have or cannot easily emulate. Best of all, something that users feel the need to share that directly increases its social presence is marketing dollars you don’t need to find in your budget.